Wine Travel: Pantelleria Island, Italy

When I was twenty-one, I had the amazing opportunity through Susquehanna University’s Sigmund Weis School of Business to intern abroad for a summer. I was granted the Stein Fund for International Experience and was able to choose the country and the internship that I wanted. After deciding on Italy, I looked for organizations that I could find an internship through. Wise Abroad is the company that I used for my internship placement. I was given four options for a business internship through Wise Abroad, and I chose to do a Marketing Internship for a winery called Miceli. Miceli has its main office in Palermo, the capital of Sicily in Italy. I worked at that office. The vineyards and cellars, however, are located in Sciaccia and on Pantelleria Island.

Fast forward to when I was nearing the end of my summer in Sicily, I had the chance to stay at the winery in Rekhale on Pantelleria Island. After arriving at the tiniest airport I’ve ever been to, I went straight to the scooter rental with my boyfriend at the time to get our mode of transport for our four day excursion. Little did we know as first-time scooter renters, those things are heavy. Whenever I tried driving it, as soon as I would stop, the scooter would fall over, and we would go with it, because I wasn’t tall enough to stand up or strong enough to hold it up. Another issue: winding roads. These roads were soooo small and on cliff edges. It was CRAZY, but so much fun.

The infamous scooter:

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We got to stay at the winery accommodation up high on the island which was beautiful! There were fresh biscuits and wine given to us as a welcoming gift, and there was a patio overlooking the vineyard which was the perfect place to eat our meals and see the sunset:

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I was lucky enough to meet with the oenologist who showed me around and explained the processes of the vineyard. I was also able to see the cellar and taste some of the wine that was almost ready for bottling right from the steel tanks.

Pantelleria is an extremely windy island that gets cool at night and is closer to Tunisia, Africa, than to Sicily. It is known for its sweet wines thanks to the native Zibibbo grape. The grapes are grown on steep hills with hand-built stone walls to aid in protecting from the harsher winds. Luckily, though, the Zibbibo grape develops its desired sweetness best from windy conditions. According to a gonomad article about the island, the “strong winds actually help the grapes by keeping their skin dry, thus resistant to mold and rot. Because Pantelleria’s terraces are too sinuous [as I experienced on the scooter] and its roads too narrow for large farm machinery, nearly all agriculture here is done by hand.” Agriculture by hand? That’s a lot of work, especially during vineyard harvest season which is August through September.

There are four Miceli wines currently produced at the Pantelleria winery. The rest of the Miceli wines come from Sciaccia. Miceli’s still and sparkling wines made with the Zibibbo grape include:

YRNM- a sweet white wine named after the ancient name used for the island,

Garighe- a white wine which develops its sweet taste from energy of the sun, the power of the wave, the richness of the soil, and the fresh crispness of the air on the Island of Pantelleria (description taken from Miceli’s wine portfolio),

Pantezco- a sparkling wine named after the Pantelleria donkey, a single race now rare and endangered. During the harvest, the donkey used to carry the loads of grapes along narrow and impervious pathways (also from Miceli’s wine portfolio).

YRANIM- a sweet red blend made with a percentage of the Zibibbo grape.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to order these wines to be shipped directly to you for a taste of the island! If you already have a favorite method of ordering wine, you can try there first, and if not, just Google the names of the wines + Miceli to see a more detailed tasting description, and hopefully you can order and sample them for yourself.

In addition to the wines produced here, there are a lot of fun activities on the island. You can hike Montagna Grande,

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cover yourself in mud at the gorgeous Lago di Venere (Lake of Venus),

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sweat it out in the hot springs or natural sauna created by the volcano, swim, snorkel, ride around the island to see the famous elephant-head-shaped rock,

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and try the delicious food including the traditional desert of the island, a flower-shaped pastry containing ricotta. It’s like a funnel cake sandwich with sweet ricotta in the middle. 185563_10150338570032425_3781227_n (1)

Capers from here are meant to be some of the best in the world and are added to pasta, seafood, and most any dish as a salty topping to the meal. The pizza is good too, of course, as it is all around Italy.

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Hoping to rub shoulders with some celebrities? Maybe you’ll find some here. According to Lonely Planet, “Pantelleria Island’s exotic and remote atmosphere has long made it popular with celebrities, including Truman Capote, Sting, Madonna and Giorgio Armani.”

If you’re interested in going to this unique destination and want to request to stay at the winery, it is available from May through September. Check out the webpage, translate it to the language of your choice, and contact sales@miceliaziendevinicole.net

What are some unusual wine regions that you’ve visited??

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